Jabari Parker won the early battle, but Andrew Wiggins and Kansas won the war, as the No. 5 Jayhawks defeated No. 4 Duke, 94-83, in the highly anticipated Champions Classic matchup on Tuesday night.
What a game! Kansas outlasts Duke, 94-83. Andrew Wiggins: 22 Pts, 10 Reb Jabari Parker: 27 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Stl— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 13, 2013
The Chicago-native Parker lit up the United Center early and often, leading five Duke double-figure scorers with 27 points, nine rebounds and three steals. But Wiggins finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and some clutch plays down the stretch to help Kansas to a hard-fought win that wasn't indicative of the lopsided final score.
Sophomore Perry Ellis crashed the freshman party with 24 points and nine rebounds, while Wayne Selden chipped in 15 points, six rebounds and four assists for Bill Self's squad.
Kansas was really impressive tonight. Ellis, Selden & Wiggins stepped up big time. Great game & it's going 2 be a great yr.— Jay Williams (@RealJayWilliams) November 13, 2013
While there was some sloppy play early, the first half felt closer to a March atmosphere than the second game of the season.
Each team shot over 50 percent from the field, had nine assists on 15 baskets, executed well offensively and never built a lead more than six points in the opening half.
Overall, there were nine players who recorded multiple baskets, but no one approached the impact of Parker, who put on a show with 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting, five rebounds and three steals in the first 20 minutes to carry the Blue Devils into the locker room with a 42-40 lead.
ESPN Stats & Info had this on the highly anticipated freshman matchup:
Jabari Parker: 6 baskets on 17 touches in the first half; Andrew Wiggins: 3 baskets on 10 touches in 1st half— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 13, 2013
Wiggins tallied his six points and four rebounds in just 11 minutes, as he sat for much of the half with two fouls.
Coming out of the locker room, however, the talented Canadian showed far more aggression and combined with Ellis and Selden on the offensive end to keep the Jayhawks in the game.
With just under 12 minutes to go, Ellis rebounded a Parker miss and quickly threw the outlet to Wiggins, who put down the two-handed slam to make it 61-60 and give Kansas its first lead since 38-37 in the first half.
From there, it was scintillating back-and-forth action, as expected.
Rodney Hood converted a three-point play with just over nine minutes left on the clock. Wiggins responded with four quick points. Rasheed Sulaimon, who was quiet for much of the game, hit several buckets down the stretch for the Blue Devils. Kansas punched back with Selden.
Who will go deeper in March?
In the end, though, it was none other than Wiggins who put the game away, knocking down a sweet step-back jumper and throwing down a breakaway dunk to put the Jayhawks ahead, 87-81, with just over a minute to go.
The Jayhawks proceeded to knock down their free-throws to close out the victory.
When it was all said and done, perhaps one of the most hyped November college basketball matchups of all time lived up to the billing beyond just the Wiggins vs. Parker matchup, although that was plenty thrilling in itself.
JayhawkSlant provided a post-game statement from Wiggins on the star-studded matchup:
Wiggins on matching up against Parker: "'Our names on the jersey don't say Parker and Wiggins, they say Kansas and Duke." #kubball— JayhawkSlant (@JayhawkSlant) November 13, 2013
A rematch in March would be nice, basketball Gods.
Andrew Wiggins, Kansas: A-
Wiggins wasn't perfect, as he struggled with his jump shot and was forced to the bench for multiple spurts with foul trouble.
Still, those are just minor nitpicks in what was a very good game overall. The most hyped player in college basketball shot more than 50 percent from the field, had eight rebounds and showed flashes of brilliance defensively.
It's a little scary that he finished with a big double-double on efficient shooting and made huge plays down the stretch, yet it felt like he could have done a lot more.
Jabari Parker, Duke: A-
Go away, Jabari Parker. You don't belong in college basketball.
(But seriously, please don't leave)
Playing so close to where he grew up in Chicago, the future top-three draft pick put on a show. He played the 3, 4 and 5. He was on fire from long range. He threw down a monstrous alley-oop. He made plays on the defensive end. He did things like this in the open court:
Parker struggled a little bit in the second half, but his overall impact was undoubtedly felt. His combination of versatility, skill and polish is pretty much unprecedented for a player so early in his freshman campaign.
Perry Ellis, Kansas: A-
In a matchup that featured so many talented freshman, it was the sophomore Ellis who stepped up in a major way.
Offensively, the big man from Wichita was really impressive, scoring in a variety of ways. He knocked down jumpers, scored in the post with his back to the basket and had some dunks off pick-and-rolls.
Perhaps even more importantly, he did a really solid job defending Parker in the second half.
Ellis may not have the NBA future of many of the other guys on the court, but he's a matchup problem and will be vital to Kansas' success this season.
Tyler Thornton, Duke: B+
The "glue guy" cliche is probably a little out-played, but if anyone deserves it, it's Thornton.
He only took one shot (a three, which he knocked down, of course), but the senior brought an endless amount of energy and played really tough defense, contributing two steals and four rebounds, both of which were second on the team.
Sulaimon deserves credit here, as well, as Kansas had real trouble dealing with him down the stretch.